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Courts

Man who believed he was meeting girl (11) but instead found adult 'decoy' livestreaming is jailed

Paul Lynch pleaded guilty to attempted meeting of a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation in March 2018.

A CONVICTED SEX offender who believed he was meeting an 11-year-old girl but instead found an adult “decoy” livestreaming to Facebook has been jailed.

Paul Lynch (56), who has another conviction for a similar offence, had sent a picture of his genitals to the “decoy.” He had asked her for a naked photo but she responded her phone was broken.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Lynch said he was meeting the girl to give her a phone.

Lynch, formerly of Beauvale Park, Artane, Dublin, but originally from Derry, pleaded guilty to attempted meeting of a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation in March 2018.

Lynch has a previous conviction from Northern Ireland in 2019 for sexual communication with a child for which he was imprisoned for four months.

He also has a conviction for a breach of a sex offences prevention order in 2023. Seven older convictions relate to theft and fraud.

There was no victim impact statement presented to the court as there is no victim in this case.

Passing sentence today, Judge Orla Crowe described the offence as the “most serious kind”.

She said it was clear to Lynch from his very first contact with the decoy that the child was 11 years old and yet he maintained contact for four weeks.

“He sent a photo of his genitals and he went to meet the child for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” Judge Crowe said.

She acknowledged Lynch’s co-operation with the garda investigation and accepted that he had shown genuine remorse. She further noted that he is willing to engage with appropriate therapies.

Judge Crowe said the case warranted a headline sentence of three years. She then imposed a sentence of two years and three months, having taken the mitigation into account and backdated the term to when Lynch first went into custody last February.

At an earlier sentence hearing, Detective Garda Pamela Dunne told Jane Murphy BL, prosecuting, that an adult member of a child protection awareness group set up a social media profile on a particular platform in the name of “Cassie”, purporting to be an 11-year-old girl and using a child’s photo.

Lynch sent a friend request and followed up with a message. “Cassie” responded and said she was 11-years-old. Lynch said she was too young for the app but continued to chat. They exchanged phone numbers and switched to WhatsApp.

The chat became sexually explicit and he sent “Cassie” a photo of his genitals. He asked for a video chat but “Cassie” said her mother was home and she could not chat.

Lynch persistently asked “Cassie” to send a naked photograph but she told him her camera was broken. He asked her would she like a new phone.

Garda Dunne said Lynch made a plan to meet with “Cassie” at a shopping centre so she could pick up the phone. Lynch texted details of his clothing to “Cassie”, who was actually the woman from the child protection awareness group and a number of other people posing as security guards.

The group started a “live stream” to Facebook prior to confronting Lynch. They said this was so the suspect cannot lie about being attacked and it cannot be edited.

Lynch was asked who he was there to meet and said “no one”. The group rang the phone number they had and the phone began ringing in Lynch’s pocket. He then acknowledged he was there to meet a girl called “Cassie”.

Gardaí were contacted and found Lynch surrounded by a large crowd. The group gave gardaí a print off of the messages that had been exchanged and the “decoy” phone they had used.

Lynch agreed to go with gardaí and handed over his phones and passwords. He told gardaí that all he had been doing was giving the girl a phone. His home was searched and nothing of evidential interest was found.

The court heard Lynch was arrested earlier this year in Northern Ireland and has been in custody since February.

Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said Lynch fully accepts his guilt and is disgusted and ashamed.

She said he had a difficult time prior to this offence due to the death of his father and brother. His own longstanding relationship had also run into difficulties. She said none of this excuses his actions which have destroyed his life. He no longer has contact with his family.

Counsel said Lynch has been a working man throughout his life and had a difficult time in various institutions he was placed in as a child. She highlighted her client has cognitive issues which are outlined in a report before the court.

She asked the court to take into account his guilty plea, cooperation in handing over devices and said there had been no suggestion he was making efforts to abscond. She said he is taking classes in custody and will engage with suitable services available to him.